Andy is a finishing department supervisor for a large custom coating operation. He is the kind of team member who won’t quit. If his department needs sixty hours of his time in a given week, he works seventy. His mental makeup is such that he can’t let someone else down, yet in spite of this personality trait, he can survive for months without an “attaboy”. It doesn’t matter how challenging the customer order is or how big the problem; Andy finds a way to get it done. At the same time, Andy’s boss Steve gives him a ton of latitude. Steve doesn’t criticize Andy’s results and doesn’t spend any time at all “pushing” Andy to do more.

Jerry also reports to Steve. Jerry worked for a leading finishing chemical company before going to work for Steve’s company. Jerry has a reputation worldwide for his finishing knowledge. In a word, Jerry is important, and nobody reminds the team of that more often than Jerry does. But, Jerry isn’t a go-getter. He loves to play around in the lab and sit at the conference table discussing finishing technology, but when it comes to using his broad experience and expertise to solve problems and add value on the shop floor, he struggles. Still, Jerry’s wisdom has great value to the company. Inconsistent with the freedom provided to Andy, Steve meets with Jerry every single morning to review what Jerry accomplished the day before and to set the agenda for the present day, thus ensuring that Jerry is focused on that which is important to the business.


A recent survey of small and medium-sized metalworking manufacturers found that 91% of them are experiencing significant challenges in finding qualified employees. As I travel about the country meeting with manufacturers, many tell me that finding qualified team members is their number one challenge. What to do about it?

Not long ago I stumbled across an article entitled “13 of The Most Creative Recruitment Campaigns”, authored by Ben Slater and posted on the website:, in which the author compiles a summary of some of the more interesting strategies employed by companies in the efforts.

In one example, well known furniture company Ikea placed job descriptions in every package of furniture it sold, enticing the purchaser to learn more about potential career opportunities. Advertising jobs directly to your customers who presumably already appreciate the value of your brand, brilliant!

Yes, brilliant, but likely not particularly practical to a contract machining outfit engaged in the business of providing product to its customers. Mining the employees of one’s customer may win the recruiting organization a great employee, while losing it a great customer. That math doesn’t work so well. But…